Quinn Calls Special Session to Deal with Pension Reform
By Chris Slaby and Sean Powers, with additional reporting from The Associated Press
Illinois lawmakers will be back in Springfield later this month as Gov. Pat Quinn has called a special session.
The governor said he wants legislators to "finish their job for the people of Illinois," and reach a deal on pension reform.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said while Quinn's intentions are in the right place, she is not optimistic a deal will be reached.
"I mean, we had a deadline, which was May 31. So now that we've blown past that deadline, I don't know what another deadline to look at, how that moves the ball forward," Radogno said.
Radogno said she believes an agreement needs to be in place between legislative leaders before lawmakers meet in Springfield on June 19.
Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who has been a “go-to” for lawmakers on pensions, also believes lawmakers should come together on an agreement before returning to Springfield.
“If we show up for a one-day session with no plan and no legislation ready to go, we will fail,” Biss said.
Senate President John Cullerton argues that his plan is more likely to withstand a court challenge than one House Speaker Mike Madigan is pushing.
Cullerton’s version would give workers a choice between state subsidized health care or cost of living adjustments in retirement. Madigan’s plan would have workers chip in more money, increase the retirement age, and scale back retiree COLA’s. There are differing opinions on which plan would save more money.
Gov. Quinn also called a special session last summer, which failed to result in a pension agreement.
It was after that when Quinn started an Internet campaign for pension reform, and introduced cartoon character “Squeezy the Python” to illustrate how state finances are squeezed by pension costs.
Quinn's announcement to call lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session came on the same day Illinois' credit rating was downgraded by the credit agency Moody's Investors Service.
Moody's lowered the state's $27 billion in outstanding bonded indebtedness Thursday to A3 from A2. The new rating's three levels above junk status. Another credit agency, Fitch, also lowered its rating for Illinois earlier this week.
Both firms point to lawmakers' inaction to reach an agreement on the state’s $97 billion pension shortfall.
Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said there is a clear lack of leadership in the state following the latest credit downgrade, adding that the pension issue should have been worked out by now.
“What this has done is now put an additional cost to tax payers because of calling people back in for special session," Rutherford said. "They didn’t get it done a year ago. They didn’t get it done in last August of special session. And now if there’s going to be this billion dollar bond issuance this year, it’ll going to cost tens of millions of dollars more to the tax payers of the state of Illinois.”
A credit-rating downgrade means it costs the state millions more to borrow money when it sells future bonds to finance long-term construction projects.
Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation.
Rutherford is seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 2014, and Gov. Quinn has said he plans to run for re-election.
Standard & Poor's reported Thursday it's keeping its A- rating for Illinois after predicting earlier there'd be no pension solution by May.